Penelope’s Turn

As previously mentioned, I grew up dancing. From ages 5-15 I spent 90% of my time in my dance studio taking hours of class, rehearsing routines, and traveling across the Northeast for dance competitions. By my sophomore year of high school, I no longer wanted to devote all of my time to dance and chose to pursue singing and acting instead. I was lucky to attend a high school with a great dance program and continued to take dance as one of my classes during the day with one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, Miss P. Without her and that class, I would have never survived high school.

My last dance recital with my studio was super stressful. I had a lead in our annual production and was really nervous about it. Every year, our studio came together to put on a play-musical-dance production hybrid that we performed in the middle of each recital show. In years past we had done Cinderella, The Lion King, Grease, The Wiz, and many more. The high-level class of each age group would perform to one song of the show and the leads were cast from the senior class and the stand-out junior dancers when needed.

My first year as a member of the advanced senior class coincided with my freshman year of high school. This was the year that my dance teacher, Miss Millene, chose to write and choreograph an original production for the recital. There was a lot of talent in the senior class and she wanted to create parts to match it.

She chose to pen a coming-of-age story about a nerdy girl named Penelope who goes on a crazy adventure with her family in NYC over summer vacation, gets lost, and becomes a star. It was honestly the weirdest thing ever. In one scene, Penelope gets lost in Chinatown and is attacked by a dance troupe of Chinese dancers dressed in traditional garb.

I was cast as Penelope’s best friend and had to perform a duet with the girl playing Penelope to Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful. The worst part was that I had to dress like a total geek. I was at the age where I thought I was hot stuff and wanted to show off in tiny pretty costumes. We were allowed to shop for our own costumes since we were playing high school students and I ended up getting my entire outfit at Limited Too. I went for the “still dresses like a five-year-old” look with a tacky bright skirt, huge pink-framed glasses, and obnoxious scrunchies.

It was definitely a crazy experience, but I’m so thankful for having dance in my life. If anything, looking like a total dweeb in front of hundreds of people has taught me to never be ashamed and that you should do anything for a laugh.


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